Sunny side up! Your cheat sheet to QLD’s Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast is one of Australia’s most celebrated regions.
It’s a patch of turf littered with gold: sparkling beaches contrasting with gorgeous hinterland, treasure-rich national parks, sumptuous food and wine, and so much more.
Among it all are some of the nation’s best-loved holiday destinations; radiating fun, relaxation, and charm.
It’s an irresistible combination, and the best introduction to the region is right here.
The options are just about endless on a sun-drenched day, but here are a few starting points…
Take a leisurely stroll along the Coolum Boardwalk for sensational coastal views and the chance to glimpse whales in season. Alternatively, Caloundra's coastal pathway is an inviting stretch that links the city’s gorgeous beaches and is dotted with enticing cafés.
Joining a river cruise is a fantastic way to soak up the region’s immense beauty. Snaking through rivers, lakes, and other majestic waterways, these cruises are dominated by sparkling scenery and depart from the likes of Caloundra, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, and Noosa.
Elsewhere, the headland at Point Cartwright is a photographer’s delight as it overlooks Mooloolaba, the Mooloolah River, and more and is a whale-watching hotspot in season. It’s also the perfect picnic spot.
There are plenty of strips of sand that could rank among the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast. These are among them:
Sunshine Beach, Noosa: Classic Sunshine Coast beach that’s suited to swimming and surfing.
Peregian Beach: A magical spot that often comes without the crowds.
Noosa Main Beach: North facing; very popular.
Mooloolaba Beach: This white-sand wonder is favoured by families.
Alexandria Bay, Noosa Heads: A favourite with surfers.
Kings Beach, Caloundra: Central, family friendly with a swimming pool and time-delayed water fountain for kids.
Moffat Beach, Caloundra: Well-suited to swimming and picnics and near to cafés and restaurants.
Rainbow Beach: Further north on the fringes of Fraser Island but worth the drive for its stunning natural features.
A handful of prized Sunshine Coast national parks should rank at the top of a nature lover’s itinerary.
Noosa National Park abounds with beauty and native wildlife best soaked up along a series of walking trails. The premier path is the coastal track that incorporates Hell’s Gates where the views are just heavenly.
Contrast coast and hinterland via panoramic vistas gifted from the Mt Coolum summit. Mt Coolum National Park is also home to rare and threatened plants as well as eye-catching wildflowers.
Glass House Mountains National Park is an icon of the region. Its funky, craggy volcanic peaks are a sight to behold and walking tracks of varying difficulty reward with breathtaking outlooks.
Located on the Blackall Range, Kondalilla National Park is highlighted by the 90m-high Kondalilla Falls, which plummet into a rainforest valley. The park also supports abundant bird life.
Aussie World, Palmview: Action-packed theme park full of entertainment that includes thrilling rides, attractions, and shows.
Australia Zoo, Beerwah: Home of the Crocodile Hunter and full of enthralling animal encounters, shows, and more spread over 40ha
The Big Kart Track, Landsborough: Billed as Australia’s largest commercial go-kart track; fun for kids and kids at heart.
The Ginger Factory, Yandina: Educational, fun, and filled with activity led by bee shows, train and boat rides, and factory tours.
Blast Aqua Park, Coolum: A wonderland of water-based activity.
Bli Bli Aqua Park, Bli Bli: See above!
There is plenty of scope for a touch of retail therapy on the Sunshine Coast. Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore is the largest shopping centre in the region and boasts a wide array of stores, including some of Australia’s biggest brands. You can easily do the credit card some damage by checking out the shops of Mooloolaba Esplanade, or head to Hastings St in Noosa for high-end fashion and plenty more.
The Sunshine Coast and markets go hand in hand, whether you’re after local produce, arts and craft, or boutique gifts. The Original Eumundi Market, held in the coast’s hinterland each Wednesday and Saturday, is perhaps the most famous example and regularly attracts big crowds.
Head for the hinterland. The Blackall Ranges are a hinterland highlight, sprinkled with charming towns that burst with art galleries, as well as boutiques, cafés, and more. Maleny and Montville are key towns to stop by for gallery gazing.
Back on the coast, the enticing riverfront location of Noosa Regional Gallery at Tewantin sets the tone for the colour and beauty dominating its interior while Caloundra Regional Gallery has a growing collection that showcases the strong aura of the region.
Then you’ll love the wide assortment of Sunshine Coast golf courses, many of which enjoy sensational settings. Top picks include:
The relaxed seaside village of Tin Can Bay is a gem thanks to its superb setting, abundant wildlife, marine animals, and bird species, and delectable seafood. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Noosa.
About 50min northwest of Noosa is the old gold-mining town of Gympie. It is one of those places you can fall in love with in an instant thanks to the riverside setting, tranquil gardens, and a colourful history that oozes through striking heritage-listed buildings and museums. It all makes for an essential day-trip destination.
The Sunshine Coast features a cluster of prized wineries in the hinterland area that will easily satisfy wine lovers.
Flame Hill Vineyard in Montville is top pick, particularly if you’re dining in, and boasts a wide selection of varieties. Flaxton Gardens in Flaxton deserves special mention also.
Things are a little different at Maleny Mountain Wines – enter the wine barrel showroom to sample its tasty vino then admire the magnificent sight of the Glasshouse Mountains in the distance.
Seafood lovers should head straight to Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba where a cluster of restaurants dish up freshly caught goodies. Dine in at a fancier establishment or grab your takeaway, head to the rooftop deck, and enjoy a casual meal overlooking the sea.
For something different, Spice Bar on the Mooloolaba Esplanade delivers an Asian fusion menu backed by a great atmosphere and is near to wine bars for an after-dinner drink.
Hastings St in Noosa is a tourist hub that’s home to a wide selection of restaurants and bars while The Esplanade, Caloundra has a generous sprinkling of inviting waterfront eateries.
Spirit House Restaurant in Yandina is planted in tropical gardens and features a cooking school as well as a new bar that’s quickly emerging as a fan favourite.
If the skies are grey, inject some colour into your day at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium in Mooloolaba. It’s home to a wealth of enthralling marine life and includes talks and presentations that reveal all manner of fun facts.
An almighty collection of machinery is on show at the Queensland Air Museum in Caloundra. Peer at historical aircraft, helicopters, and loads more, and learn all about Australia’s rich aviation past through a series of absorbing displays.